And then there were only 2. Who else had Clemson and Iowa as the last 2 undefeated teams staring right at the College Football Playoff? There is still work to be done for both of those two, however they have now put themselves into a clear cut drivers seat to get in. As for the other two spots, it is now a 1 loss scrum of teams that now must be compared and contrasted against each other. They all hope they get invited to the party. With only 2 games left to impress the committee, the sprint towards a national championship begins this weekend. Avoid an upset and you are just fine but if you eat that poison cheese as Lee Corso put it, all the hard work and determination gets you…a really good bowl game that will stuff the pockets of the university you chose to play for. I am not basing anything off of preseason rankings and am only looking at what has happened this season. In this poll we use metrics: offensive efficiency (OE) & defensive efficiency (DE) as well as a strength of victory (SV) metric. We will also throw in the FPI rankings to give you an idea of what the nerds think. There is one eyeball test we scrutinize these teams with and that is How good is your good?
1 Clemson 11-0 (last week: 1) FPI-6
11th OE; 2nd DE; 3rd SV; +224 Point Differential. Dabo Swinney said it best after the game “You can’t win em all if you don’t get to 11”. That is exactly what Clemson did. They have been the best and most complete team in the Nation for weeks now and I don’t see that changing soon.
2 Iowa 11-0 (last week: 4) FPI-28
23rd OE; 29th DE; 17th SV; +172 Point Differential. One last test on the road at Nebraska is all that stands between Iowa and the first perfect 12-0 regular season in school history. They are not flashy but they are solid. Iowa is a team that plays mistake free football and a team you have to beat.
3 Oklahoma 10-1 (last week: 5) FPI-1
13th OE; 5th DE; 2nd SV; +265 Point Differential. First of all this is a different team without Baker Mayfield at QB. If the Sooners want to keep up the title “best 1 loss team in America”, then Mayfield has to be 100%. Bedlam will be very important in deciding who will win the Big 12.
4 Alabama 10-1 (last week: 6) FPI-3
25th OE; 1st DE; 1st SV; +226 Point Differential. Roll Damn Tide into the Iron Bowl. Playing Charleston Southern was essentially a bye for Alabama. There are those who would argue ‘Bama needs to be #1. If you stop Derrick Henry you stop the whole Crimson Tide offense. Henry should go to New York for the Heisman presentation.
5 Baylor 9-1 (last week: 9) FPI-2
1st OE; 46th DE; 4th SV; +259 Point Differential. Each week I get more and more respect for Baylor. They have proven all year they are one of the elite teams in the Nation. Going to Stillwater, a place they have not won since 1939, and getting the victory with your 3rd string QB. That is impressive.
6 Notre Dame 10-1 (last week: 7) FPI-8
5th OE; 50th DE; 6th SV; +150 Point Differential. I think Brian Kelly should be the Coach of the Year. They’ve had backups in all across this offense and are a win away from making an 11-1 resume. If they beat Stanford, Notre Dame will have a serious case to make the College Football Playoff. It will come down to the opening game against Texas if it is between Notre Dame and OU.
7 Michigan State 10-1 (last week: 13) FPI-17
24th OE; 21st DE; 15th SV; +109 Point Differential. I really have no idea how to explain how Michigan State went into Colombus and dominated The Ohio State Buckeyes. That was a field position clinic the Spartans put on, the ran the ball effectively and stuffed the run even better. It was with grit and determination that Michigan State won.
8 North Carolina 10-1 (last week: 11) FPI-15
8th OE; 44th DE; 14th SV; +235 Point Differential. Yes they squeaked out an OT win over Virginia Tech. That was Frank Beamer’s last game to coach in Blacksburg Virginia and there was tons of emotions that made Tech play higher than their record said they should be able to play. The last half of the 4th quarter almost made a storybook ending with a furious comeback but the Tar Heels would not be denied. I hope the committee noticed that.
9 Florida 10-1 (last week: 8) FPI-19
59th OE; 6th DE; 13th SV; +142 Point Differential. You don’t let Florida Atlantic come to the swamp and push you to OT. This, coupled with the Vanderbilt almost debacle has me and the rest of the country really wondering what is going on in Gainesville. They have a shot to go to the SEC Championship Game and knock off Alabama. The defense and the athletes are there its just playing consistent for 4 quarters.
10 Ohio State 10-1 (last week: 2) FPI-4
41st OE; 7th DE; 5th SV; +223 Point Differential. Ohio State finally messed around long enough that a good team beat them. Its really as simple as that. All the nonsense that happened after the game with certain players going on Twitter and saying their goodbyes is validation that this team has not been bought in all year and have become complacent and entitled. They are lucky to be 10-1 and will be lucky to win in Ann Arbor.
11 Oklahoma State 10-1 (last week: 3) FPI-14
19th OE; 22nd DE; 11th SV; +181 Point Differential. The Pokes still have 1 game left to salvage any hopes they have of making the Playoff. Beat the Sooners in Bedlam and there is a chance. I’m not sure how you let a team win on your home turf with 2 backups at QB. I’m sure Gundy is scratching his head over last night.
12 Navy 9-1 (last week: 14) FPI-38
10th OE; 39th DE; 27th SV; +195 Point Differential. Maybe Navy is a little better than we all thought. Games against Houston, Army, and possibly Temple in the American Championship Game will decide just how high the bowl ladder that the Midshipmen climb. Keenan Reynolds deserves an invite to New York for the Heisman presentation.
13 Stanford 9-2 (last week: 15) FPI-9
9th OE; 54th DE; 7th SV; +163 Point Differential. Stanford won “The Big Game” and now that conference play is over they are the Pac 12 North Champs. The reward is getting Notre Dame before the Pac 12 Championship Game. I believe the Pac 12 has beaten itself up too much for the Playoff, however the Rose Bowl is not a bad option to play for. Another Heisman contender here with Christian McCaffrey.
14 Michigan 9-2 (last week: 17) FPI-16
32nd OE; 10th DE; 9th SV; +190 Point Differential. Speaking of the Rose Bowl, Michigan would love to visit Pasadena in Jim Harbaugh’s first season. They have a shot too if they can beat a distracted Ohio State team and have Michigan State lose to Iowa in the Big 10 Championship Game then the Rose Bowl would be in their grasp.
15 Florida State 9-2 (last week: 18) FPI-13
16th OE; 25th DE; 12th SV; +187 Point Differential. With Florida looking vulnerable, the Seminoles could salvage the season with a huge win in the Swamp. With that victory and say Clemson and Notre Dame are in the Playoff then Florida State would be the likely choice to go to the Peach Bowl in the New Year’s 6. That would be a good thing for FSU.
16 TCU 9-2 (last week: 12) FPI-5
15th OE; 43rd DE; 8th SV; +180 Point Differential. TCU almost threw the polls upside down if they had converted a two point conversion with 51 seconds left in Norman. Very impressive to go to OU and play with the determination they showed. With Baylor coming to town, perhaps Boykin will be healthy enough to get into another shootout with the Bears.
tie-17 Ole Miss 8-3 (last week: 20) FPI-7
12th OE; 31st DE; 10th SV; +198 Point Differential. If Ole Miss can win the Egg Bowl they will find themselves in a major bowl. There is too much talent on this team to have lost 3 games. The schedule has been brutal and the week off after the Arkansas loss could not have come at a better time. The Rebels looked fresh against LSU.
tie-17 Mississippi State 8-3 (last week: NR) FPI-20
14th OE; 27th DE; 21st SV; +133 Point Differential. How did Mississippi State go to Fayetteville and beat a red hot Arkansas team? Bielema went too conservative at the end, but the Bulldogs still had to block the potential game winning FG attempt and they did that. The Egg Bowl is a must watch game nationally for the 2nd year in a row (I always watch it, I love rivalry games).
19 Washington State 8-3 (last week: 24) FPI-45
26th OE; 47th DE; 36th SV; +78 Point Differential. How can I rank Wazzou this high? Well they beat Oregon and played Stanford to a 1 point game. Both of those schools are higher in the committee rankings. The Apple Cup will either get Washington State to a better bowl game or it will get Washington bowl eligible. Better pay attention to the Cougars.
20 Northwestern 9-2 (last week: NR) FPI-55
100th OE; 4th DE; 34th SV; +41 Point Differential. Northwestern is the team forgotten in these rankings, only to get back in with a big win against Wisconsin. They are as tough as their Head Coach Fitzgerald (who was a LB at Northwestern) and that D is legit. It will be interesting to see what Big 10/SEC bowl they get into.
21 Oregon 8-3 (last week: NR) FPI-24
6th OE; 69th DE; 19th SV; +69 Point Differential. The Ducks got 20 of their +69 point differential with a blowout over USC. Oregon is on a 5 game winning streak and has played their way back into the good graces of this poll. If they can win the Civil War against Oregon State, the Ducks will probably wind up in either the Alamo or Holiday Bowl.
22 Temple 9-2 (last week: NR) FPI-48
75th OE; 20th DE; 45th SV; +138 Point Differential. Temple did lay an egg against South Florida last week, but outside of Clemson and Iowa everyone in the country has laid at least 1 egg. They handled a Memphis team that many thought could have an outside chance at a Playoff spot 4 weeks ago. Even with the 2 losses, Temple could still beat Navy and earn a New Year’s 6 bowl if they are the highest ranked Group of 5 team.
23 UCLA 8-3 (last week: NR) FPI-18
27th OE; 28th DE; 20th SV; +108 Point Differential. UCLA is in the drivers seat to win the Pac 12 South now. Getting to Levi’s Stadium and the Pac 12 Championship Game would be nice. They will have to go through USC to do that. UCLA has held the Victory Bell for the past 3 years, and if they want the Pac 12 South, they’ll have to keep ahold on that bell.
24 Pittsburgh 8-3 (last week: NR) FPI-36
31st OE; 38th DE; 30th SV; +49 Point Differential. Wouldn’t it be nice if Pitt and West Virginia would finish the season with the Backyard Brawl? I miss that game. Instead Pitt will take on The U and I really don’t care about what happens in this game. Pitt is on its way to the Russell Athletic Bowl against some Big 12 school if they win.
25 Georgia 8-3 (last week: 22) FPI-23
60th OE; 12th DE; 28th SV; +109 Point Differential. Georgia is in the middle of another 9-10 win season and really will have nothing but at best a Citrus Bowl appearance against a really good Big 10 team. I don’t know if Mark Richt is on the hot seat or not, but there are too many talented players on this team for it not compete for a Playoff spot the last 2 years or even be in the National Championship contention. It just seems odd to me that Georgia is not better than they are.
All Efficiency rankings taken from ESPN. The Strength of Victory is taken from Jeff Sagarin’s rankings and the FPI is also an ESPN stat.